Divorce can be one of the most stressful times of your life- it's painful finishing your relationship, it can get messy and when children are involved it gets even more emotionally complicated. You have to deal with your own pain, and try your best to help your children through it, too. Kids all react to divorce differently. You'll need to be both strong emotionally and patient with them, because children tend to cope with divorce by acting out in some ways. A few steps you can take to help make the change for your kids as painless as possible:
- Talk to them. They'll need to know exactly what changes will happen, in the most straight-forward language as possible. This means no playing the blame-game or pointing fingers at your almost-ex. You should both show your children a united front, letting them know that it has nothing to do with them. That you still love them unconditionally, even if your relationship with your partner has changed. Also watch what and how you say things to other people when your children are around. They'll be listening closely and any additional negativity will be picked up on.
- Make the change gradually. Try to keep things as normal as possible. Small changes over a period of time helps children adjust to the divorce. You should also include them in the process, or explaining as you go why these changes are happening. The more honest you are, without judgment, the better off your kids will be in understanding and coping.
- Let them express themselves. They'll be adjusting just as much as you are to the divorce. Keep tabs on their emotions, and pay attention to any changes or mood swings. Let them tell you how they're feeling openly. They might not say what you want to hear but they need to know their feelings are just as important as yours. They shouldn't feel like they're walking on eggshells, and if they think they have to hold things in they'll be reactive later.
- Be supportive. Helping your children cope with your divorce involves a lot of security issues. They need full knowledge that they'll have some changes, but that they'll still be loved and taken care of by both of you. This doesn't mean that you should shower them with toys, but give them emotional affection. Remember that each child reacts differently: some will be much quieter, some will act as if nothing happened or that there aren't any changes and some will have behavior issues, even months after the divorce.
- Give yourself time for you. You'll need to be strong enough for both you and your children, which means keeping to the same schedules they're used to, eating right and taking care of yourself. You'll have your own emotional needs to take care of- it's a long process. The best way you can help your children with the divorce is by making sure you're OK.
It will be difficult getting you and your family through the divorce. But you can do it. Realizing how to help your children cope can help you put the pieces back together. Giving you all the ability to move forward in a positive way.